Feeling just as nervous as she had the first day of kindergarten, Leah walked into the school. She felt vulnerable without her two friends beside her, and her knees were weak with fear.
She certainly didn’t show this. The faerie Lenny strode boldly forward, her head held high and her sparkling green eyes gazing down on everyone—who happened to be shorter than she, of course. Her vibrant blue and purple feathers glittered in the lights, and she truly believed she was the most beautiful that she had ever been. Her heart soared at this thought, higher than it had been in a long time.
When Alex and Jenny had been here, they hadn’t allowed anybody to be prettier than them, especially Leah, who was of the lowest rank in their small group. This morning she had experienced a guilty pleasure when she had used an extra dose of shampoo to make her feathers extra shiny, and hadn’t held back on the use of her cosmetics—within reason. She had nearly chickened out. The Lenny had to remind herself several times over that her old friends weren’t going to see her, and she wasn’t going to have to worry about whether or not they’d punish her for this.
She took in a deep breath and paused. With every step she took she was becoming more and more nervous, and this was something she didn’t need. There was a quirk she possessed, that she sometimes she worried over a particular thought so much that she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on other things, such as doing homework or going to sleep at night. Sometimes she found herself waking up in the middle of the night, her limbs tense as the remnants of a nightmarish dream faded away, and she’d have to read a book or draw a picture or two to get calmed down again. She knew this about herself—and prided herself on how self aware she was—and worked hard to get herself to stop.
A big ball of green slime landed on her forehead.
Laughter filled the hall of the high school, and Leah’s cheeks burned as several voices of her fellow students taunted her. More stuff flew through the air, some of it sticky and others just painful, and she cringed, trying to avoid the projectiles.
“Ha ha! Serves you right!”
“Take that, you bully!”
The Lenny fled, her wings held over her head as she ran. A few people shoved her, wanting to make her feel bad, and she stumbled and nearly when somebody stuck their leg out to trip her. By the time she made it out of sight and into the bathroom, however, she was almost completely covered in gunk from who-knows-what. She squinted as she fought to keep from crying, because she knew she didn’t deserve to. After all, how many times had she done the same thing to one of them? She shivered as she sat down, resting her back against the cool, tile wall.
She winced as a memory rose unbidden to the front of her mind. In it she saw a small blue and white Cybunny cowering as a striped Xweetok and blue Yurble strode up to him. He was backed up into a corner, and his ears and arms twitched as he looked around, trying to find a way—any way—to get away from them. She herself didn’t take any part in the bullying. She had usually stood off to the side, watching and occasionally looking to see if a teacher were coming. While she hadn’t particularly liked what they were doing, she hadn’t cared enough to do anything about it... and, well... look where that got her now. Covered in gunk with bits of zeenana stuck to her head.
She sniffed as her nose started to run, and reached up to grab a paper towel from the nearby dispensers. It was only when she blew into the thing that she realized she wasn’t alone. A door belonging to one of the bathroom stalls slammed shut.
“Excuse me, are you alri—”
She looked up to see a short, very frightened looking glowing Zafara wearing a purple coat. The creature’s jaw was slackened, and her blue eyes were wide as she gazed at her. She took in several deep, quick breaths, and looked around, almost expecting the others to leap at her, before she turned around and ran out of there as quick as she could.
Leah frowned. That had been Naqasa, the bane of her existence. She was the one who had started and finished the downfall of her group, which had left her behind to deal with the wrath of the entire student population. It had begun when she had abandoned them—having once made the Trio a Quartet—and had shown everybody else that they could resist them. Then, after she had made several trips to the lab ray and became a stunning white Usul, Naqasa had somehow discovered a plan made up by Alex to turn her into a mutant, managing to reverse it onto the horrified Xweetok. Their parents had been told what they’d been up to, and all three of them had to go their separate ways. Both Jenny and Alex were abandoned by owners who had never wanted bullies for pets.
The faerie Lenny went limp where she sat. As much as she resented Naqasa—who had since become what she was today—she couldn’t blame her, much as she couldn’t blame everybody else for treating her the way they were. Now, if only she could figure out a way for them to ignore her, rather than paying such harsh attention to her.
Leah’s heart twisted as she remembered how the Zafara had reacted before she had realized it was her sitting on the floor. She had spoken with concern, truly caring for the person who was so upset in the bathroom. Was she really all that horrible? Or had that opinion only stemmed from the viewpoint her previous friends had given her? Were the things she thought were bad... actually bad?
A loud chatter was already filling the room as Leah walked into the art room, her feathers cleaned to the point where she at least looked decent. She quickly dashed over to a stool near one of the easels, and set her bag down. There was something about the atmosphere in here that put her at ease, and helped to ease any anxieties that she had been feeling before she walked in. Here was her sanctuary, her place where she was safe from everybody else. Even before the Trio had been broken up, this was her safe haven.
She picked up a brush from the table next to her, and squirted some blue paint onto a small plate.
The teacher wasn’t very strict. After the first few assignments he let them create whatever they wished for most of the time, claiming that he didn’t want to restrict whatever they would’ve created. Sometimes he made suggestions, but generally the yellow Moehog left them alone.
A long, dark navy streak made it onto the canvas.
Leah lost herself in her painting, her senses becoming dulled except for what was set in front of her. She didn’t hear or see as a small argument broke out behind her, or notice when another pet bumped into the table her paints were on, causing it to wobble precariously. She wasn’t an outcast, and she wasn’t a pet who had to worry about whether or not she was going to have her lunch stolen in the cafeteria. She was just Leah.
The others may not realize that she wasn’t the same pet she had been before her whole world had been turned upside-down, but she did, and she knew she was a better pet because of it. No longer was she going to inspire fear in the hearts of a random student, but she would try to make them see that she was somebody worth talking to and being friends with. Some day, she wouldn’t be alone.
Someday, she was going to make friends with Naqasa.